The heat and humidity of summer are here, but people in Tokyo don’t let that stop them from having fun. Summer is a time of festivals and celebrations in Tokyo. And it a time for…fireworks!IMG_7601

The Japanese seem to love fireworks displays, and there are some impressive ones here. I recently observed one of the biggest – the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival.

They say this festival dates back to the 1700s, and it’s a popular one. Roughly a million people converge on the Sumida River area of Asakusa every year to see this remarkable event.

This year, the fireworks display had to be postponed a day. A little thing like a typhoon interrupted the festivities. But the typhoon passed, and the fireworks – originally scheduled for Saturday night – proceeded one day later on Sunday.

This year, I walked to the Asakusa area. There are trains that go there, and if you go early, it’s not a problem. But with so many people coming to the show, the trains get very crowded. And, be on notice – there is never a full train in Tokyo. You just push harder to get on. You’ll get to know your fellow passengers better than you might ever want to…

I walked around the Sumida River area for awhile, and crossed the bridge over the river. I found a street that was closed and people were beginning to settle in. Many bring blankets, coolers, and food. It’s a street party in every sense, with hundreds (thousands?) of people having a good time.

I made a good choice of locations. I had a (mostly) unobstructed view of the fireworks. I couldn’t see the river from my vantage point, but had a great view of the fireworks. And it was an amazing show, lasting a full hour.

Then, when the fireworks are over, you have a million people all trying to leave.

I quickly dismissed the trains – the line just to get in the train station stretched more than a block. So, I started walking towards home. The nice thing about Tokyo is that you can walk just about anywhere at night, and not feel unsafe. I walked along the train tracks, down past a few stations. And was able to find a station with almost no line. An easy commute home.

Tokyo’s summer festivals are often very crowded, and the heat can be intense. But bring some water, maybe a snack, and a lot of patience…and you’ll be rewarded with some amazing experiences.

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My husband and I were both born and raised in Kansas, but for the past 20+ years we have been living in Atlanta, Georgia. Now, with our children grown and out of the house, we have the opportunity to spend two years living in Tokyo. My husband will be working with the Japanese counterpart to his American company. UPDATE 2023... After 4-1/2 years in Tokyo, we returned to Atlanta. Now we are heading to London for a three year job assignment!

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